Saturday, 29 August 2009

Interview: Rennie Pilgrem

TFM recently had the opportunity to catch up with one of the more influential members of the old school Breakbeat scene - pioneer of the Nu School sound, label owner, producer/artist, etcetera - Rennie Pilgrem. To try to encapsulate the extent of Rennie’s impact would be exhausting, so I’ll refrain. Here are a few words from him regarding the past, present and future. Enjoy.

Where do you draw your inspiration from these days - what keeps drawing you back to creating music in the dance arena?

These days I have found myself drawing on the sort of music I grew up with, which is Funk. Nowadays for me to be inspired, I need to try different things...stay away from sticking to formulas...I am working at different tempos for example and merging real instruments more with electronic stuff.

Dance music and popularity are fickle currents, are there any factors to which you can attribute your sustained tenure as a top producer and label owner?

I suppose you could say that I have stuck broadly to what I am into which is more syncopated rhythms....a lot of so-called producers aren’t proper artists and therefore ‘they have nothing to say’ which means they are more likely to follow trends rather than forge their own path.

With such an extensive catalog of releases, is it even possible for individual tracks to standout or remain as favourites to you? And if so, which tracks have stayed in the crate or in the proverbial top 5 for you?

Some tracks after the initial playing-out lose their attraction but some become old favourites. For me it’s ‘Hold You’ by Dopamine, ‘Purple Funky Monkey’ by JDS, ‘2 Freaks’ by myself, Blim and Chickaboo, ‘Cous Cous’ by myself and Uberzone and ‘Celebrity’ (PaisleyPark Mix) by myself and Chickaboo.

Being regarded as a pioneer and integral part of the breakbeat scene must come with its own weight and pitfalls. Have you ever felt constrained by that, personally or creatively?

I haven’t felt constrained by being known for loving Breaks but I feel held back sometimes by feeling like I should always be making tracks for djs to play in clubs, ‘cos it can be too ‘samey’.

Have you experienced any unique challenges when translating your sound to a live incarnation?

It’s a huge challenge because you have to marry electronic trickery with real musicians....trying to get the balance between performance and being faithful to the original is not easy...but I have been lucky to have had some great people alongside me.

Can you help the uninitiated visualize the live experience by giving us a brief description?

Real drums, real bass and guitar, live keyboards and anything that can’t be played live, running on Abelton Live with real-time effects and edits as required.

Coming from the beginnings of the breaks movement, and having helped shape its trajectory, I have to ask, what do you see for the future of breakbeat? Or in dance music in general?

My personal future lies with going back to the roots of the music which is with Funk but reinterpreting it in a modern way. I also hope that breaks gets way more experimental and less bland. Dance music in general seems to be getting more integrated with itself with styles merging...which is no bad thing.

What tunes or genres outside of breaks are currently striking your fancy?

Funk is what is tickling my fancy...I like some dub step but a lot of it sounds like a parody of itself already.

It's 16 years and counting for TCR, what's on the horizon for the label?

Remixing some of our back catalogue and releasing new stuff mainly of mine...assuming I can find a way of making it worthwhile......people taking the music for free is making it almost impossible unfortunately. I don’t blame them but something will have to change or the quantity of music will go up but the quality will go down.

Upcoming releases, noteworthy gigs, future plans for Rennie specifically?

We are just about to re-release our Rhythm Section material...starting off with ‘Coming On Strong’ and we have our first gig as Ryhthm Section for 18 years (Raindance 20th Birthday, London Sept 19th). I have a couple of remixes I am doing. I am recording with a great Aussie singer Arianne Shreiber and working on a very excititng post-modern funk project with another well-known producer. I am also writing music for TV. I am doing a couple of small tours in the USA and Canada in the Autumn and touring Australia and New Zealand with Chickaboo at the end of the year.

Any parting words for the Tech Funk Manifesto?

If you are making ‘tech-funk’ please make sure that it lives up to its name.

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